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The importance of self esteem

Author: Joanne Miller
Published: Dec 30 2013

Nathaniel Branden called self-esteem 'the immune system of consciousness.' Just as a healthy immune system protects you from illness and fights off micro-organisms that would invade your body, healthy self-esteem protects you from depression and fights off abusive behaviours that would take over your relationships.

At its core, self-esteem is simply how good we feel about our self. Someone who believes 'I feel good about myself' or 'I am competent' has good self-esteem. A good level of self-esteem similarly determines how we act and how far we go in life -- how we interact with other people, how we set our goals, and ultimately our happiness.

Like any key element of personality, self-esteem carries with it a number of closely related personality traits. People with high self-esteem tend to be more:

- Open;
- Honest;
- Accepting;
- Cooperative;
- Independent;
- Creative;
- Rational;
- Flexible; and
- Willing to admit mistakes.

High self-esteem people also tend to be more ambitious about what they want to experience in life, and have a high drive to express themselves.

Someone who has healthy self-esteem is much less likely to be the victim of abusive behaviour. Not only does it enable the person to recognise abusive behaviour for what it is -- the other person's fault, and not their own -- but people with good self-esteem seek out healthy relationships instead of harmful ones. By feeling good about themselves, they also treat other people with respect, fairness, and a non-judgemental attitude.

Individuals with high self-esteem are also better to be around. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy called them 'the most desired and the most desirable people' in every group. Low self-esteem people often exercise their inner demons upon others. Why do people manipulate? In many cases, to make up for issues of self-esteem. In fact, many school bullies and abusive partners also have low self-esteem. It is through bullying and abusive behaviour that they compensate and take energy from their victims. Faced with a person of healthy self-esteem, these individuals don't dare.

How do you improve self-esteem?

Self-esteem is affected by many factors. It is closely related to our degree of self-dominion, the ability to actually do the things we want ourselves to do. Therefore, addictions and addictive behaviours such as junk food harm self-esteem.

Self-esteem is best built through momentum. Start small, with a task you can do immediately that you want yourself to do, such as cleaning off your desk or organising your papers. Each time you complete such a task, it builds self-esteem.

Once you have some momentum, use your imagination's power to visualise yourself as the self-assured, confident person you wish to be. Ask yourself how you will feel, how others will perceive you, and what your body language will look like when you attain this goal. Practise this exercise every morning and every evening.

Put energy into socialising. Take lunch with a friend, or simply find reasons to leave the house. Socialising gives you opportunities to connect with others and practice your communication skills.

When you come upon a task that scares you, do it proactively. The more often you do things of which you're initially fearful, the less scary situations like it will be. Eventually, the fear will vanish.

Self-esteem is a critical life skill. In many respects, much of the unhappiness in our lives can be traced to poor self-esteem. On the other hand, improving it is relatively simple. With a few steps, you, too can develop the confidence needed to live the life you want.

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